From the Back of the Vault: An Introduction to Fenwick Library, 1989

By Greta Kuriger and Bob Vay

Wouldn’t we all love to step back in time more than 20 years and see what our office looked like back then? In the rapidly changing world of libraries and information management, even five years is a lifetime.  Imagine going back twenty-two years.

A frame from An Introduction to Fenwick Library showing a 1989 touch screen.

This recently-discovered video is an instructional piece on using George Mason University Libraries‘ Fenwick Library, which is on the university’s Fairfax campus.  It features a white jeans and suspenders-clad scholar navigating the different departments of the library in search of material on presidential use of the media back in 1989. With the help of library staff he is instructed in the use of the cutting edge technology of the time and he is thus equipped to travel to the stacks, access microfilm, visit Special Collections & Archives, and finally, check out some books. Although the way we access the many resources the library has to offer has changed dramatically since the creation of this video, there is no still no substitute for visiting the library in person.

The film was found in the recently re-processed George Mason Universities libraries records. The collection consists of materials documenting the history and activities of the University Libraries and is a part of the University Archives.  This video adds to our knowledge of how researchers accessed the library and interacted with library staff over twenty years ago.

Our researcher prepares to check out books at Fenwick's circulation desk.

The original video is on 1/2″ VHS tape and contains a significant amount of  video noise, or “snow” as they used to call it back before the days of dvd’s and digital television. Hence the digitized video, along with a small loss of video quality due to compression from encoding, is of less-than-desirable quality.  Still the audio is very good, and viewers should be able make out most of the action in the film.

Part one of the two parts can be viewed at:

How to Pour Tea

Agnes McCall Parker was the founder and director of the Parker School of Etiquette, Personality, and Speech in Washington, D.C. In this photograph from August 1953, Ms. Parker shows a group of her students the proper way to pour tea from a correctly set tea table. This photograph is from the Oliver Atkins Photograph collection, one of two collections currently being processed with a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. This photograph demonstrates Ollie Atkins’ distinct talent. For example, he captured everyone in the crowd by using the reflection in the mirror. The photograph is also an excellent example of early 1950s culture. The grant provides funds so that staff can discover these unique images and make them known to researchers.

Agnes McCall Parker

Oliver F. Atkins Photograph Collection, Box 13, Folder 22

In Remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr

This photograph of Martin Luther King Jr. was taken in January of 1964 when he spoke to reporters outside of the White House.  Later that year King would return to the White House to witness the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This photograph is part of the Oliver Atkins Photograph Collection.
Oliver F. Atkins Photograph Collection, Copy Prints
Martin Luther King, Jr. 1960s
Box 103, Folder 13. Photo © SEPS

Lights, Camera, Reston!

This past autumn the Reston Association filmed a short informational piece about our Planned Community Archives, in which there is a great deal of materials related to the town of Reston, Virginia. Around minute 3:30 is when it begins.  You can see our reading room and “the cage” where we house most of our archival materials. The piece is aimed at Reston citizens, historians, and enthusiasts interested in viewing the collection and/or donating materials. Here’s a scene of a potential donor (Preservation Librarian Lene Palmer) showing an archivist (me!) the materials she wants to donate to the library.

Here’s the link to the video:

Reston Association: December News

Spring Cleaning

The thermometer may be hovering close to freezing, but George Mason University employees are already thinking about spring. “Spring Cleaning” is underway in many offices, as employees are either preparing to move to new quarters or preparing for the start of the new semester.

George Mason University Records Management, run out of Special Collections & Archives, assists university departments with the retention and disposition of all temporary university records.

We help with spring cleaning efforts by offering an alternative location to store inactive, but still important, university records.  University offices may store inactive paper records at the University Records Center in the Central Receiving Warehouse on the Fairfax campus. Approximately 10,000 cubic feet of inactive university records reside in this secure and efficient space.  The department of origin retains full ownership of all records stored there and can request records returned any time.

We make the process as easy as possible.  Records Management provides boxes, free of charge, for all records stored at the University Records Center.  We also arrange for box transfer with no charge to faculty or staff.

A view inside the University Records Center

For additional information about Records Management, take a look at our website: